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Anti-Trump group led by Bill Kristol hires lobbyists to push presidential power reform

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Bill Kristol

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A nonprofit group that has funded attacks on former President Donald Trump during his term in office has hired lobbyists to press for reforms to presidential powers.

Defending Democracy Together, which is run by longtime GOP political strategist Bill Kristol and a cadre of other so-called Never-Trump Republicans, hired a group of lobbyists from the powerhouse firm Tiber Creek Group in an attempt to reform presidential emergency powers, the federal government’s war powers and Congress’s subpoena authority, according to a new registration form.

When asked by CNBC, the organization’s spokeswoman did not say what specific changes the group is looking to make when it comes to presidential powers or the government’s war powers.

The lobbyists registered to start engaging with lawmakers for the anti-Trump nonprofit in October. The filing was made public Friday. It marks the first time that the organization, which was founded in 2018, has hired registered lobbyists to influence lawmakers.

The lobbyists working the account from Tiber Creek have prior experiences in the offices of Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Tom Carper, D-Del., as well as Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb.

Defending Democracy Together is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit largely led by Republicans. It has funded projects, including Republican Voters Against Trump and the Republican Accountability Project, which have often taken aim at Trump and other GOP lawmakers.

The group recently disclosed that they raised over $35 million last year and spent a bulk of their funds on a project that blasts Trump.

Kristol was once an advisor within former President Ronald Reagan’s administration and is currently a director of the organization. Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman is also a director.

Kristol was a booster of the war in Iraq that was launched by former President George W. Bush and approved by Congress. President Joe Biden has said that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will officially end this year.

Kristol broke with much of his party as he opposed Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and became one of the more vocal people on the right in criticizing Trump. That led to the formation of Defending Democracy Together.

“Through its various projects, Defending Democracy Together is dedicated to defending America’s democratic norms, values, and institutions. One such institution is the Office of the Presidency, which still operates under outdated reforms last addressed in a major way following the Watergate scandal,” the group’s spokeswoman, Meaghan Leister, told CNBC in an email on Monday. “Defending Democracy Together has engaged a team of lobbyists to support its project work that proposes a series of nonpartisan reforms to return the Presidency to its proper constitutional role.”

Though the statement did not include any further details, the lobbying report notes one bill, called the “Protecting Our Democracy Act,” which was introduced in September and first sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

The bill, which has only been introduced and has yet to pass the House, “addresses issues involving abuses of presidential power; checks and balances, accountability, and transparency; and foreign interference in elections.”

Over a dozen Democrats have cosponsored the legislation and has yet to receive support from a single Republican.

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